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Oct 20, 2009 4:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Montauk residents fight for beach access

Oct 20, 2009 4:43 PM

Montauk residents are organizing and preparing to fight for access to a beach on Lake Montauk that used to be a popular community gathering spot.

Julie Brumm, an organizer of the Committee to Save the Star Island Cove Beach, said the beach is unique because it is protected on three sides and was ideal for teaching children to swim and other recreational uses. She said access to the beach has been denied for the past two years ever since the land was purchased by Peter Kalikow, the president of a New York City real estate company and former Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who owns a house nearby.

Mr. Kalikow bought the 2.2 acres of beach, dunes and wetland in October 2007 for $2.5 million, said Jeanne Nielsen, a town tax assessor who was raised in Montauk.

“That’s what he paid for a spit of beach,” she said, adding that the property should have been placed on the town’s Community Preservation Fund acquisition list.

The property was once owned by Selma Chapman and Tom and Anna Rohback, and had been passed down to Francis Chapman. They all allowed residents to use the beach before it was sold to Mr. Kalikow, Ms. Nielsen said.

Ms. Brumm said the land was once on the town’s list for acquisition, but it was never bought. She said the former owners were so carefree about sharing the beach that most residents thought East Hampton Town already owned the property.

“A piece of this beach has been used by locals ever since it was created when the causeway to Star Island was created,” she said. “People are upset.”

She said the committee started to organize more than a year ago when residents realized Mr. Kalikow was not going to change his mind. On Thursday, the committee will hold a cocktail party at the Snug Harbor Hotel and Marina from 6 to 8 p.m. to make more people aware of the situation and organize those who want to get involved in the effort. She said the committee plans to lobby the East Hampton Town Board, raise money for the cause and publicize the issue.

“This is a bad precedent for the whole town,” she said. “We don’t need more rich people taking beaches away in East Hampton. The Town Board needs to look at this.”

Ms. Brumm addressed the candidates for town supervisor at the Concerned Citizens of Montauk debate on Sunday afternoon.

“Yes, we can buy it,” said Democratic Town Supervisor candidate Ben Zwirn, who added that he planned to attend Thursday’s meeting. “Peter Kalikow is not the easiest guy in the world to get along with, but we can gang up on him.”

“I’ve had discussions with him before and I can commit” to having more in the future, added Republican Town Supervisor candidate Bill Wilkinson.

But according to spokesman Martin McLaughlin, Mr. Kalikow, whose house is on the property next to the land in dispute, would most likely not be open to selling the land to the town. His spokesman said that in the future, Mr. Kalikow plans to build a house on the land for his children.

“The fact is that is private property owned by Peter Kalikow,” he said. “He’s been a resident of Montauk for 25 to 30 years and he plans to build a home there for his children.”

Mr. McLaughlin said that Mr. Kalikow has found that when people used the beach access, they have left garbage behind, but that his main concern is safety.

“If anyone got hurt there or drowned there, he could be responsible,” he said.

Mr. McLaughlin also pointed out that Mr. Kalikow allows access to his property for the annual Mighty Montauk Triathlon. Merle McDonald-Aalon, the organizer of the triathlon and a Montauk resident and business owner, said she was aware there had been a committee formed but that she has “absolutely no problems” with Mr. Kalikow and that he has been cooperative every year.

“None of us knew that the property was privately owned, everyone thought it was town property, so for years I have been doing the triathlon there,” she said. “Then a couple years ago we found out the property was bought and it was fenced in.”

Ms. McDonald-Aalon said she had already sent out registration forms and had permits granted to hold the swimming portion of the race in that spot, so she approached Mr. Kalikow and explained to him the tradition of the race and she said he gladly granted her access, as he has continued to do every year.

“Yes, I do understand that other people do have a problem. People are upset,” she said. “But I’m in a situation where I do not have a problem with Mr. Kalikow.”

Ms. Nielsen said she believes the town should have taken a serious interest in potential public uses of the area before Mr. Kalikow bought the property and she said she would like to see the town bargain with Mr. Kalikow to allow access.

Only three other places are accessible to Lake Montauk for public use, she said, and the town is trying to block off one other access site on East Lake Drive.

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Simple solution is to not allow him to build on that piece of property, ever! Change the zoning laws so he can't build. Should not allow anyone to build on the waterfront, beaches belong to all taxpayers.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Oct 20, 09 7:43 PM
I am going to write this again, paraphrased, and if it is not published I would appreciate Joe Shaw letting everyone know why. Questions: In this article Ben Zwirn is quoted as saying “Yes, we can buy it,” I ask, tongue in cheek, with what money, Mr. Zwirn, the profits from the sale of your familiy business? And shouldn't we, as taxpayers, have concerns about buying "a spit of land" for (at least or more) 2.2 million dollars (shades of Keyes Island?) without a darn good reason to do so (i.e. ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Oct 21, 09 1:05 AM
Sounds like a perfect case for eminent domain. Town park ahead... And don't worry, Board Watcher, there's still money available at the state, county and town level for endangered recreational parcels like this.
By rss0246 (23), East Hampton on Oct 21, 09 3:07 PM
ins(hampton bays), i own property on lake montauk but do not own the beach and underwater rights to my property.there are some that do,they had a battle with local clammers a few years ago as to who could harvest clams on their property.i believe my property is described as poor mans beach property.
By montauk resident (41), montauk on Oct 22, 09 7:02 PM
I speak with total authority and invite any rebuttal. The previous owners
POSTED, fenced, and hired a local to PATROL this property with townspeople having no regard for its private ownership. NO TRESPASSING signs and any attempt at fencing was vandalized immediately! By "residents"?When you learned to surf there you were breaking the law. When you learned to swim there you were breaking the law. Boats, trash, have all been left on this property since the 1950's with the East Hampton Police ...more
By I'llthinkofsumthin (1), Huntington on Oct 27, 09 8:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
The laws about beach front property have always stated from the beginning that someone may purchase a building and have "access" to the sand and water, but it is never fully owned.
Those that have used their money to try and force the law to change still have no recourse to state that the beach and water belong to them since they bought a house near the body of sand and water.
They own only the structures and small piece of land it sits on ...until the water through a storm/mother nature ...more
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 28, 09 8:24 AM
Note that if it wasn't for the local citizens to begin with---none of the people that have wealth and deny access of such beauty and joy that the beach and water brings for all... would even think of purchaseing property on the east end.
One that lives in an area a life-time -through the changeing seasons and years -are truly the only ones that deserve any of the rewards --since they have been the caretakers for its beauty.
I have never seen such SELF CENTERED---PETTY NEUVO RICH BABIES -AS ...more
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 28, 09 8:58 AM
I anchor my sail boat right off that beach. I pull up my dinghy on that beach
when I go ashore to snug harbor. I put my middle finger up to anyone who says I can't.
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Oct 28, 09 6:42 PM